Kansas governor wants to re-issue a mask mandate. GOP legislative leaders are expected to shoot it down
All current COVID-19 emergency orders will expire at the end of month
Conflict between the governor and legislature is soon to happen when next month hits.
Gov. Laura Kelly said Wednesday that when April starts, she will re-issue 12 of her current executive orders, ranging from requiring testing in nursing homes to temporarily prohibiting evictions. Of biggest note, though, is a statewide mask mandate.
But the mask mandate, and a couple others, are likely to get shot down by GOP leaders under a new oversight process that was just made into law.
"Should the governor issue any new executive order which imposes an undue burden on the people of Kansas, including an unnecessary new mask mandate, rest assured the Senate will take immediate action once we receive the order,” said Kansas Senate President Ty Masterson, R-Andover.
Gov. Kelly signed into law Wednesday a lengthy piece of legislation overhauling the state's emergency management laws in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Of immediate importance, the state's current emergency declaration for the virus is extended to May 28. The governor had called this important in ensuring resources could be used to combat the virus.
“This bipartisan compromise will extend the State of Disaster Emergency that allows us to provide hospitals with PPE, support food banks and pantries, and otherwise respond to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Kelly said in a statement.
But all emergency orders the Democratic governor has issued will now expire at the end of this month according to the bill. Any new ones, such as the orders she wants to re-issue, must go through a process with more rigorous legislative oversight from the majority-GOP Legislature established in this bill.
But, the governor's hands were tied either way, because if she did not sign it, her emergency orders would still be gone by March 31, as they would expire alongside the emergency declaration.
“The bill includes provisions that I do not support and that could complicate our emergency response efforts. But I will continue to work with legislators and local leaders to keep Kansans safe and healthy during this pandemic," the governor said.
Other provisions that will now become law include provisions that deal with COVID-19 orders from local government and schools, which some say make such orders difficult to keep in place.
For one, health officers can't solely issue COVID-19 orders anymore that specifically mandate face masks, limit gathering sizes, affects business operations, controls movement of the population or limit religious activity.
Only a city or county can do so, but even then, those orders can now be appealed by anybody who is aggrieved by the order in court. Those hearings would have to be held within 72 hours of a request, and the burden of proof is on the government. A decision would have to be made within 7 days after.
Executive orders from the governor can also face the same hearings.
Additionally, local school boards and community college boards are given the sole authority to close down or restrict operations. And any COVID-19 order a school board issues will also face the same hearings if an aggrieved person feels so.
"A year ago, Kansans were forced to comply with severe lockdowns that closed businesses, schools, and even churches," Masterson said. "Our essential liberty and freedoms were arbitrarily restricted, both by our governor and unelected officials at the local level.
"By expanding due process and creating a system of accountability, we are amplifying the voices of the people and ensuring their rights are protected.”